CHELSEA will sit third in the Barclays Premier League at Christmas after smashing sorry Aston Villa for eight unanswered goals in a farcically one-sided encounter at Stamford Bridge.
Fernando Torres’ power header got the ball rolling for Rafael Benitez’s men inside three minutes before a stunning free-kick by David Luiz and a Branislav Ivanovic header had the points in the bag by the break.
Villa goalkeeper Brad Guzan did his best to limit the damage with a string of fine saves in the second half, but he could not keep out Frank Lampard’s stinging long-range effort and then suffered the ignominy of Ramires slotting a fifth between his legs.
Oscar made it six from the spot in the 79th minute and there was still time for Eden Hazard to become the seventh different goalscorer when he lashed home, while Ramires made it eight at the death as Paul Lambert’s men were brought back to earth with a bump following last week’s impressive win at Liverpool.
The Scot offered no excuses for the collapse. “We were second best,” he said. “We have to hold our hands up – we never turned up. At this level we can’t play like that.
“We always learn. It will certainly be a wake-up call, but it’s been going fine for us and it is only Chelsea and the two Manchester clubs that have turned us over. We will bounce back.”
After Benitez’s reign began in low-key fashion with goalless stalemates against Manchester City and Fulham, the European champions have since averaged more than three goals a game after netting 26 times in seven matches in all competitions.
Chelsea’s performance also marked the first time seven different players had scored for the same team in a single Premier League match.
The Blues shrugged off the disappointment of losing the Club World Cup final to Corinthians a week ago with a 5-1 drubbing of Leeds in the Capital One Cup in midweek, and they started with their tails up today and soon took the lead through Torres.
Cesar Azpilicueta created the opportunity, his cross from the right finding his fellow Spaniard who still had much to do from 16 yards, but generated enough power on his header to beat Guzan.
The threat of Villa’s Christian Benteke was much discussed ahead of the match after his two goals and superb assist for Andreas Weimann in the win over Liverpool, and the Belgium international was the focal point in the visitors’ search for an equaliser. Yet it was the hosts who continued to control proceedings and, with 29 minutes gone, they added a sublime second through Luiz, who was again revelling in the midfield role he first graduated to at the Club World Cup.
Hazard led a swift counter-attack to win a free kick on the edge of the box, and Luiz produced a shot to rival Cristiano Ronaldo at his best as he thumped in an arrow-straight effort with his instep that dipped wickedly over the wall and beyond Guzan.
The home fans were celebrating again in the 34th minute when Gary Cahill’s deflected shot drew a parry from Guzan but Ivanovic was on hand to head the rebound high into the net.
Villa emerged for the second half in damage-limitation mode, but they had a let-off within five minutes as Guzan tipped a rasping Mata drive over the bar.
Benteke relieved the pressure by winning a corner after a run and shot from deep, but Chelsea had no problem clearing their lines and might even have scored on the counter-attack but Ashley Cole blazed over. Guzan denied Torres a second with another fantastic reaction save in the 56th minute, while the Villa goalkeeper also denied Moses in a one-on-one situation seconds later.
But the American was helpless to prevent Lampard adding a fourth in the 58th minute, the England midfielder marking his return to the starting XI with a wonderful low strike from 25 yards, becoming Chelsea’s all-time leading league goalscorer in the process.
Lampard was withdrawn on the hour to be replaced by Ramires, and five minutes later Chelsea goalkeeper Petr Cech was finally called into meaningful action as he deflected Weimann’s low shot onto the crossbar.
Oscar was brought on as Benitez opted to rest Torres ahead of the busy festive programme, and the Brazilian should have marked his arrival with a goal in the 68th minute but screwed his shot wide.
Lucas Piazon entered the fray to make his Premier League debut as Mata’s replacement in the 74th minute, and within seconds the 18-year-old had his first top-flight assist as his perfectly-weighted pass found Ramires who slotted under Guzan.
In the 79th minute, Oscar was bundled over in the area by Chris Herd and the Blues midfielder picked himself up to plant his penalty beyond a dispirited Guzan.
Four minutes later it was seven as Hazard received the ball in the area and turned smartly away from his marker before burying the ball high into the left corner of the net.
It might have been eight in the final minute after Piazon won a penalty after a foul by Clark, but the debutant could not add to Villa’s misery as Guzan guessed right to make a good save.
Yet there was still time for Villa to suffer further humiliation as Ramires turned home Oscar’s pass beyond a clearly fed up Guzan, who could only wearily pat the ball into the back of the net.
“We showed great appetite for the game from the first minute,” Lampard said afterwards. “With our desire to be quick with the ball, the early goal helped.
“We are enjoying playing again and we needed that attitude to get us out of the sticky patch we were in.”
It was Lampard’s 500th Premier League start, while his second-half strike took him past Bobby Tambling to become the Blues’ all time top scorer in the top division.
“It means I’m old,” Lampard joked of the record. “No, it means a lot. I’ve been fortunate to play for a great club and the managers had team-mates around me.
“I’m very proud of that goals record. To beat a great man such as Bobby who is an absolute legend and a lovely bloke, it means everything.”
Benitez said: “Everything impressed me about the performance of the team. We have been talking before about the mentality of the team; attacking, creating chance,s we had good movement, we were good in defence.
“As a team we had the balance we are looking for.”